Author Archives: George Simmers

After many years as a teacher, I retired and began researching for a Ph.D. on the fiction of the Great War – especially the books, stories and plays that were written during the War or immediately afterwards.

Causes of the First World War (by Dennis Wheatley)

I’m always interested in novelists’ versions of the beginning of the war, and none is more challenging to conventional historians’  ideas than that of Dennis Wheatley in The Devil Rides Out (1934).  The wise and experienced Duc de Richleau is explaining to his companions in adventure the power of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: […]

‘Never beaten in the field’?

In A.G. Macdonell’s dark but lively  satire, Lords and Masters (1936), forceful young Veronica Hanson has just returned from Nuremberg, a convinced and enthusiastic Nazi. She explains recent history to her father: ‘Anyway, my point is that in the last war the whole world combined couldn’t beat the German armies in the field -’ ‘Is […]

Duff Cooper at the War

Alfred Duff Cooper is best known as the politician who became Minister of Information in the Second World War – but his diaries of the First World War make excellent reading for anyone interested in stories of the upper class at war. A young man of talent and connections, until 1917 he was employed, and, […]

Vera Brittain, novelist

‘And you say,’ the Judge continued slowly, ‘that these abnormal conditions are not uncommon as the result of shell-shock?’ ‘That is so, My Lord. If every criminal case in our prisons could be traced back to its origins as exhaustively as this one has been traced, we should probably find war shock, or war anxiety, […]

The York National Book Fair

I hadn’t been to an event like this for a couple of years, so enjoyed my visit to York Racecourse on Friday, to what is billed as Britain’s largest Antiquarian book fair. I didn’t buy much, though. The fair is aimed at book collectors, and I’m more of a book amasser, whose books pile up […]

In No Man’s Land

From the diary of Duff Cooper: November 11th, 1916. Dined at 16 Lower Berkeley Street. After dinner, the conversation turning on sodomy, Blueie [Harold Baker] told us of a case where a man was accused of having committed it in No Man’s Land, i.e. between the trenches during an attack, taking advantage of a shell […]

Ticking off a ghost

  It’s supernatural month at the Sheffield Popular Fiction Reading Group, and I’ve been looking at  Conan Doyle’s The Land of Mist, in which Professor Challenger and the other characters from The Lost World are brought in to explore Conan Doyle’s great obsession – the world of the Beyond, as revealed to spiritualists. Thank goodness […]

‘Red for Danger’ by Evadne Price

With my interest in Evadne Price rekindled by Matt Houlbrook’s biography of Netley Lucas, I thought I’d take a look at one of the novels she wrote after her stint as ‘Helen Zenna Smith’. Red For Danger (1936) belongs to that quintessential inter-war genre, the comedy thriller. There is a plot based on crime, big […]

‘Not So Quiet…’ – Netley Lucas’s story

Having greatly enjoyed Matt Houlbrook’s biography of Netley Lucas, I have now been taking a look at Lucas’s second autobiography, an odd book called My Selves, ‘by Netley Lucas and Evelyn Graham’ (Graham was the name under which Lucas achieved considerable success writing royal biographies). The book was published in 1934, after Lucas’s release from […]

The crook who published ‘Helen Zenna Smith’

In 1917 Netley Lucas was fourteen, but must have looked mature for his age. He got himself an officer’s uniform and used it to run up debts as, for a short but wild period he lived the high life. Inevitably, his luck eventually ran out, and he was sent to Borstal. After some more criminal […]